The Boy Who Boomed and Spat


“Tap-Tap!”
 
A quick, double-knock at our special ed classroom’s door. I rise to answer it, but before I can even get up and out from behind my small-group teaching table, an adult hand has opened the door partway, shoved a boy through fast enough to make him stumble, and shut the door again quickly.

I have never seen the boy before. The students yell out “He’s a new student, Teacher!” In one connected set of motions, I quickly give him a big smile and welcome him to our class as I seat him with paper and markers–and rush out the door.
 
The boy’s mother is hurriedly making her escape.
 
Empty Womans Clothes
 
She returns only at my insistence. I introduce myself and say how happy I am to have her son in my class. She looks at me, puzzled, and–could it be?–amused? Her invisible escape foiled, she now strolls leisurely away without even introducing herself.
 
It is not a language-barrier issue. The family speaks only English at home.
 
Within a day, I decide–fairly or not–this parent cares not a fig for the child that once came from between her legs.
 
The new boy’s name is Donald. The Office had known he was expected this day. They didn’t think it was important to inform me, his teacher—the one who has to find desk space, textbooks, and supplies for the new student, plan lessons to include his needs, and help the other students–always unnerved by changes to routine–adjust to his presence.
 
And that will take some adjusting.
 
I am five feet seven inches tall and weigh 125.
 
Our new student, at ten years old, is 5’10” and over 180 lbs. A big body like a man’s, with a deep, booming voice like a man’s. (He is, likely, a man, biologically: Many inner-city children begin puberty today before they are double-digits in age.)
 
Donald pushes his big man’s weight around: Body slamming the other students, and me, against desks, tables, cabinets, and walls. He yells extremely loudly in his booming voice all day long. Donald also has an endearing habit of spitting into the eyes of those he is upset with.
 
Initially, Donald is upset with everyone.
 

Unhappy Light-Skinned Black Teen Boy Staring

(Not the Actual Donald.)


 
It is easy to understand why: This “5th-grader” has never held a pencil properly or written his own name. Yet, until he joined our class, he had been left in regular-ed classrooms every year–“mainstreamed”–and “socially promoted” each year with regular-ed students, to stay within his age level, rather than his skill level. Left alone, in the midst of these students, year after year, without any extra assistance.
 
Imagine being in over your head day after day, year after year, with no one helping you succeed. No wonder he is so angry.
 
While I feel great sympathy for Donald, it is clear that this oversized boy with the terrible temper is going to be a danger if we cannot get him some one-on-one assistance. Just his spitting is tremendous cause for concern in these days of serious drug-resistant health threats.
 
I ask the office for a second assistant—I have learned that Special Ed teachers can mandate additional helpers for special cases like Donald’s. I am told no help is available.
 
Only several months later, after my continued insistence, is another assistant finally provided.
 
How outrageous is it that I had to demand repeatedly that this issue be addressed? How much effective learning do you think has gone on in my classroom in the meantime?
 
And here is an interesting little side note:
 
Two days after Donald was first thrust at me through my door, a paper form was thrust at me by one of the Office staff.
 
“What’s this?”
“You need to sign this.”
“What is it?”
“You just need to sign it.”
 
When I press for an answer, I’m told that it states that I am aware the new boy in my class caused severe problems in his prior school. But the form not only does not describe the nature of the previous misbehavior. It provides no space to describe it.
 
“What did Donald do at his previous school?”
“I don’t know.”
“Why would I sign a form that tells me absolutely nothing?”
 
The District’s Legal team apparently believes that, if I sign this form, the District will be absolved of all responsibility should anyone be injured on my watch.
 
This, despite the fact that I was offered no choice in whether or not to accept Donald into my classroom.
 
Just Sign the Damn Thing Wolf
 
Of course, I refused to sign the form!
 
DREADENDUM
 
A former therapist indicated that she believes I suffer from PTSD. Caused by my seventeen years spent under the roof of people who constantly yelled at and eventually often hit me and my siblings–in both predictable and unpredictable circumstances.
 
As an adult white-collar professional, the first time a fellow white-collar professional unprofessionally raised his voice in the office, I ducked.
 
I now recognize that being in that Special Ed classroom with body-slamming, booming-voiced Donald, stressful as it would have been for any person, was particularly so for me. Every time Donald’s voice suddenly blared out, I felt like running out of that half-sized storeroom/classroom screaming for help.
 
Frankly, it is not unreasonable to state that a year spent with Donald could have, in and of itself, caused a mild case of PTSD even in someone who had NOT been abused as a child.
 
There were thirteen other children stuck in that closet room with Donald. And Rey. Don’t forget Rey, he of the always-scooting desk and wandering scissors.
 
What loving parent could send their child off to school each morning knowing that these classmates were waiting for them? No one, if they had a choice. Most do not know. But our school administrators, who do know, have no problem consigning YOUR children to this hopeless hell.
 
 
1st Teaching Post: Shocked By a Rock
 
Prev Teaching Post: A Little Boy’s Too-Big Confession
 
Next Teaching Post: He Who Will Teach
 


 

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47 Comments

  1. I met a kid like that. It was on one of my periodic ride-alongs with the MPD. We were responding to a call about an intruder “hiding” in a backyard shed. What we found a “Donald” huffing gas out of a neighbor’s lawn mower.

    The cop escorted him out of the shed and handed him over to me, so he could make a few phone calls about where to take him. I stepped back and shook my head, no. Even though the kid was in a stupor, he still had a hundred pounds on me, easy, and yeah, I was intimidated – but the cop said, “He won’t be any trouble.”

    When I reached out to grab his arm, his muscle tone was softer than Jello. His whole body was like that…. including his brain.

    As we walked him back to the squad, the cop said, “we’ll be seeing a lot of him over the years.”

    I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to be his teacher.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    • Yes, I can see that kind of future. Donald’s muscle tone was excellent, but depending upon how useless the neighborhood gangs found him–I imagine fairly useless–he would not find gainful employment with them for long, and the official channels did not seem primed to do him much benefit at churning out a productive happy citizen via legal means. Were he in Japan, he could have been a happy and fulfilled Broom Pusher or Subway Squisher. Then, were he in Japan, it would never have gotten to the point of him reaching 5th grade without knowing how to write his name (not only better education and attention to mentally disabled, but so much easier to learn reading and writing with directly phonetic systems).

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  2. I hit the Like button not because I like this (who could like such a situation?) but as a sort of “You’re amazing and I think what you did for these kids is beyond the call.”

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    • Thank you, MoSY. I think it is beyond the call, too, because there should never be a classroom with this type of mix of kids with this type of staffing or expectations. Clearly, children who are dangerous to themselves, like Rey, should receive mandated treatment. Children who are dangerous to others, like Rey and Donald, should also receive mandated treatment, as well as be taught separately from others in constantly-filmed rooms by physically-stronger specialists with specialized de-escalation and emergency restraint training.

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  3. I imagine every one of your students would have qualified for one on one supervision by a teachers aide. Amazing that there is never proper funding for this. What a thankless job.

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    • I suspect it is a matter of how those dollars are spent. But also perhaps a matter of babies making babies and not practicing basic child-rearing principles, of depression, drugs, and alcohol use, and, I believe, some effects of the welfare versus workfare state. Most def. we should not be paying parents on the dole a bonus to have special ed children except for children with disabilities that of necessity cause increased costs–and this is NOT all special ed kids.

      BTW, I have no idea if this has been rooted out—I don’t see how it could have been–but when my own two were attending private schools, it was becoming quite the trend for hoity-toity parents in the know to have their children labelled Special Ed in order to obtain public monies to have their kids privately educated (yes, this was apparently possible, although I sure didn’t know how to work it–you’ll see one post on my failure to help my own child), or publicly educated at a magnet (gifted-ish) school but tested with special breaks given for their supposed disabilities. Quite the little scam. The latter wouldn’t siphon off that many $$, but the former could add up to significant bucks over time.

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  4. Paul

     /  2015/04/09

    That has to be one of the most dysfunctional workplaces/schools I have ever heard of. How you survived even as long as you did OB, amazes me.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    • I did not stick it long at all, Paul. You’ll see I bailed Special Ed almost immediately, despite that being one of my interest areas.

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    • I had to come back and add: While I agree that my particular school was horribly managed, my situation was far from atypical, as other Special Ed teachers can attest. Nervous breakdowns among other newbies were something I kept learning about, to my dismay, of course. Since then, I have also learned about physical injuries requiring treatment. The administrators know this, and the situation is ripe for a monster class action suit for their failure to keep statistics and reveal these to new teachers entering the field. Easy to see why they don’t reveal them, though.

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  5. The truth of this post is painful. My husband and I met working at an in patient facility which schooled all the Donalds who were kicked out of your class. I went on to home educate our children. My husband went on to work with the seriously mentally ill. Knowing the truth about mental health and large systems early, guided our future paths.

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    • All the praise I have garnered for my short stint with these children, when people like you, Angie, and your husband, are the real heroes. Thank you for your love and respect for them–both qualities their own families sometimes fail to give.

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      • Oh, thank you, Babe, but we too were short-timers. We accepted the jobs right out of college, met, and then after a brutal year, moved on much wiser. As you know, those of us who have been in those trenches for any time have a bond. Because of the intensity of the work, a short stint is long on experience and lessons learned. Thank you for your work then and for the work you continue to do now by writing about your experience with such candor.

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        • Much love back, Angie.

          Liked by 1 person

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          • Thank you dearly ❤ I’m glad to read at Barbara’s that you are on the mend. Sounds like it was quite a rough patch.

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            • Truly nothing. The illness was just one of my frequent kidney infections, but either the infection or the antibiotics or both affected me more than I realized, and some other non-health nonsense has been going on simultaneously. All is well. I am very lucky. I haven’t had a real flare for a good while, and no serious hospital since April ’13. All good.
              🙂

              Liked by 1 person

            • Good for you. Well-earned. Hope your weekend is wonderful.

              Liked by 1 person

            • Yours as well. : )

              Liked by 1 person

  6. “Socially promoted?’ I’ve never heard of such a thing. When I was in school if a kid couldn’t read, they stayed back. We don’t do that anymore? The alternative is to push them along into higher grades? What is the rationale there? Babe, help me understand something. I am not being facetious or deliberately disingenuous, I really want to understand why I never saw kids like this when I was in school. Where were they? Hidden away somewhere? I was not in lily-white upper class school systems, believe me. I was in military schools for the most part. EGAD, this is just so awful. No wonder you had PTSD, I’m feeling traumatized just from reading this and placing myself in your shoes.

    Liked by 1 person

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    • We don’t do that anymore. In many places. In the places where students perform most poorly. It is felt to be damaging to their self-esteem, and there is research, I believe, which supports increased dropout rates among held-back kids vs. those advanced despite total lack of skills mastery.

      One wonders, though, if the research is based on bundling together all the similarly-aged kids with the same low skills.

      As you will read again in a future post, my regular ed 5th-ers tested below 3rd. I was told to graduate a 5th-er whose own parent wanted him pulled from regular and put into special ed. A boy who was retarded–only we don’t say that any more.

      When I was growing up, these kids went to special day schools, then came home, most of them, where they lived with their families, and played with their sisters and brothers, and, sometimes, other kids in the neighborhood. One of my friends when I was young was a retarded girl, and she was just considered one of the gang. Another boy, brother of a friend, no one hung out with, but everyone stopped to chat with and play catch with, or whatever.

      In later years, mainstream schoolong was attempted for Art, and I think Music and P.E., as well–I only remember the failed Art attempt. Our class was told the nature of the children who would be joining us, but no adult made any attempt to introduce these children to potentially sympathetic table-partners, or start conversations with them. It was Us vs. Other and remained so. Quietly separate and unequal.

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  7. M-R

     /  2015/04/09

    I suppose your being a special ed. teacher is like someone becoming a drunk, having been raised by drunks for parents … sort of.
    But of course your situation will inevitably lead to can’t-cope instances – or will it ? Perhaps not, Babe: you seem to cope rather well …
    Where have you been ?

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    • I just answered Barbara of Silver In the Barn: Lounging about in Capri. Taking in the sights of the Indus Valley. Sailing the Yang-Tze. Or something very like one of these.

      I was desperately trying to play catch-up yesterday on post-reading and remarking, but having the most dreadful time with WP repeated disconnects and crashes–and a particularly difficult time writing ANYthing to YOUR blog, M-R!! I could not post a comment via the Reader’s preview pane, getting some odd “nay-nay-nix-mustn’t–VERBOTEN!!” error msg never seen before by this Babe, and when I tried the plain ole’ reg’lar way, WP snickered and ignored me. Nada happened to my words. This happened only with your blog, mind you–no one else’s!

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  8. Babe I couldn’t do it. I would be terrified. I had a best gal pal that was a special ed teacher… she barely made it five years. That was too damn long! And she didn’t care like you do. I feel so bad for the kids.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    • Hey, Pix,

      I couldn’t do it, either: I didn’t make it five years–you’ll see that I switched away from special ed to regular ed (although my “regular” class was overloaded with special ed students, too). I don’t know how your pal made it as long as she did. I’ve said..somewhere else, I forget where…that the teachers I saw doing it long term were, in some cases, burned out and not doing much teaching, or cheerful sorts not expecting much learning, though of course there were amazing exceptions. Admittedly, too, I had VERY little experience time from which to judge, and was in only one (honkin’ large) district.

      Just as regular ed experiences were 180 degrees different teaching in my school versus the richer areas where, for instance, in one the children stood up and said “Good morning, Mr. So-and-So” when a teacher entered the room, and no baggies were worn to conceal toys or baby weapons or candy brought to class, so special ed experiences differed, I’m sure, as well.

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  9. As a lifetime teacher, now gratefully retired, my heart breaks when I think ot the state of public ed in America. Special Ed is a special kind of hell. General Ed, depending on the location, is kinda stupid. Money, patronage, unions, politics…all have entered where they have no right to be. I must say, I moved on, from a large, urban high school to other venues where teaching had some modicum of respect, as a profession. Though even at the “highest” level—teaching graduate students—nowadays it ends up being more about politics, than a love of learning

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    • As you know, I moved on too, Cynthia. The job did me in. Can’t say my lupus doc hadn’t warned me…

      My heart breaks, too. For all the children, but most for those parents and children who are doing such a good job, and have no economic choice but to make use of schools such as these.

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  10. Interesting post. I wonder why you seem surprised that school administrators would act against the interests of children? What incentive do administrators have to do otherwise? At least a private entity has an incentive to satisfy the needs of paying parents. The incentive of bureaucrats is to increase their power and perks.

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    • Did I seem surprised? Yes, I suppose I did. Despite my committed misanthropy, I continue to be surprised that people don’t behave in a way most would label altruistic, even if only because the greater good results in the more benefit to the individual. My continued surprise may be due to my apparent near-zero inability to learn from repeated similar social experiences. Barely Aspie, by my age, but Aspie still.

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  11. My mother, the poor woman, believed that if you expect the worst, you”ll never be disappointed. This made her happy. 🙂

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    • Helloooo again, Cynthia,

      I’ve only just learned this morning after watching three disappearances that lots of the replies I’ve been making via my Iphone 5c have not gone anywhere but into the ether. I have no idea what I said back to you the other day, but pretend it was something terribly clever, please.

      I think your mother was terribly clever, and, given the pattern of my life since my early twenties, followed her philosophy. However, my sister feels that I should do the opposite not for any psychological reward (getting crushed constantly is no reward, which is why I adopted your mother’s approach to start with), but because this is what God would have us do–hope should always spring eternal. My spring feels worn otu and dried up, but I am trying once again to take the mental high road.

      Maybe the next time I am asked to verify my identify, I won’t be asked questions about how many rooms are in my ex-spouse’s current house.

      Maybe the next time I open a medical envelope, I won’t once again be in Collections for an amount covered by my 100% insurance coverage.

      Maybe next year, when I do my taxes, I won’t learn that I lost part of the part-time money I earned to help make ends meet because I was taxed on it.

      Sounds to me like my high road still has a few bumps that need smoothing out.

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  12. Horrible. I’ll never complain about my under-educated college students again.

    Liked by 1 person

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  13. Thanks for sharing your experiences dear Outlier Babe … I would have felt so tiny, powerless and probably unable to handle a big guy like Donald was… I am particularly talking of sizes, at least the first level of my analysis.
    Secondly I wonder what this new generation eat… There have been always fatty boys and girls but I feel that these new kids are becoming huge… muscled, well shaped and so on… Not to mention their behaviours … They seem more mature when it comes to issues related to adulthood…
    Special Ed classroom with Donald certainly became ¨special¨to you, something quite exceptional and I am glad that you made it through regardless of the circumstantial burdens and the further consequences related to post traumatic effects…
    A teacher might be always ready… Like a boy or Girl scout if you wish…
    Your temperance and strength were signs of adaptability, so you might take it as a challenge you overcame!,…. ¨What doesn´t kill you akes you stronger, as the saying goes¨…
    Sending you all my best wishes. Love!!!!!… Aquileana ⭐

    Liked by 1 person

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    • I.e Makes you stronger… I swallowed that one… It tasted good, though, so glad I did! 😛

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      • I took it for a Freudian typo: Getting stronger that way did make me ake/ache!
        😉

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        • That´s an excellent interpretation… By the way, I made some funny mistakes on the comment section of my blog earlier today…. For example: ¨I wish you a happy Dump Day¨, instead of ¨Hump Day¨… I guess I am having serious issues!!!!….

          Liked by 1 person

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          • I thought I’d made a clever pun over at Aussa’s Aussome place the other day, but instead, made a fool of myself thanks to foolish typos. (She expects those from me by now!)
            o_O

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          • You know what? You’re a genius, Aquileana! There OUGHT to be a DUMP day! The opposite of Yom Kippur: Instead of forgiving everyone their trespasses, we go to TOWN on their backsides! Then, if we choose to take advantage of them on DUMP Day, then the rest of the year, we have to shut up and put up: No more complaining!
            🙂

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    • Aquileana, you have put your finger on a “big” problem: Chldren ARE more adult-seeming, both because their puberty is coming too soon, and because their parents, and the larger culture, don’t believe in protecting them from adult content in media.

      The youngest children are exposed to sexualized images–of barely or pre-pubescent girls, and sometimes boys–and most are exposed before teen years to repeated images of aggressive sex, bondage sex, angry sex. Images and sounds of violence provoked by minor incidents, presented as justified if done by popular men. Of glamorized theft.

      Children are not equipped until older ages (I say double-digits) to filter fact from fiction effectively, and not equipped until, I say, later teen years or young adulthood, to filter sexualized images effectively.

      I don’t know how to put the genie back in the bottle, but I understand why this situation leads to some religious fundamentalist extremists (Islamic and others) feeling that our nation and others with such “freedom” are the source of much evil.

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  14. I don’t know what’s worse, the school system’s approach toward its special needs students or the way Donald’s mother just shunted her offspring off on you with nary a care. What chance does any child have if their parent doesn’t give a hoot? I’d like to think there is some sort of happy (less tragic?) ending with Donald, but I’m not going to get my hopes up.

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    • Unparented/poorly parented children are a national shame and tragedy. The school system runs a close second, both in special and regular ed.

      I need to add an Addendum about Donald. He got gentle treatment from somewhere–likely from home–for he was a gentle giant once his needs were addressed. Really a very sweet boy who loved being helpful. His mother may simply not have cared about school, and not thought of Donald as a full person, but more…How to say this. Some cultures (not branding an ethnicity or nationality, but speaking of subcultures within a culture, here) shun children with cleft palate. Some treat slower children as less than human–either treat them affectionately, or cruelly.

      There was a clear hierarchy which I got to see as I “ascended” class groups in terms of class behavior and academic receptiveness. In five teaching years, I wound up teaching three levels of groups: kids labelled mildly learning disabled who actually included emotionally disturbed children, a regular ed class loaded with kids who were learning disabled or discipline problems, and a regular ed class not so loaded.

      Any prediction how the proportions of caring parents appeared to be distributed among these three groups?

      But: In my experience in those five years, loving/caring did not equal caring about academic performance–not in that particular neighborhood’s culture. I’ll be posting about that.

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  15. I’m sorry, Babe, that the system failed YOU. I’m sorry, Babe, that I had not read this post before commenting on your memories under that roof of that house in your next post first. Context here, misplaced glory by me there. Dreadendum and Sadendum. I’m sorry, Babe, that you must reach for words like this to tie up your posts.

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    • You have a big heart, Mark, and your kind thoughts are very appreciated. It is childish of me to reach for the sad tie-ups: A play for sympathy, still, after how many decades of supposedly being a grown-up? But it is what it is. I don’t apologize for it any longer. I really haven’t ever been cherished, I really wasn’t loved as a child, and rarely as an adult, and if this is how I’m to get strokes to fill that emotional-need pit that feels bottomless, so be it! Pity me, World–Oh, Pity me! (by this point, I am laughing, for reals)
      😀

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      • Well, Babe, this guy cherishes what you are right now, no fishing needed. You are wise, funny, intelligent, witty, sarcastic and outspoken, and smart enough to know there’s a difference between wise and intelligent and funny and witty and sarcastic and outspoken. I am sorry for what you want through, yes, but I do not pity you. I like you. Take that, Babe-o-rama.

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